Truth About Minimalist Footwear

Most Common Questions about Minimalist Footwear

  • Which shoe should I buy to transition my feet?

  • Do your feet stay dry in those things and are they waterproof?

  • Don't your feet get cold on the snow?

  • Do I need to spend $100 to train my feet?

  • How much should my footwear weigh?

  • What about Zero Drop?

barefoot running
Barefoot without Minimalist Footwear

Which shoe should I buy to transition my feet? 

 No matter what almost every shoe manufacture will tell you, there is NO SUCH THING as “Transition Footwear”.
I personally have fit over a 100 people into footwear by request over the year. I would first ask you, "What primary surface you will be traveling on?" From that question build from there starting as minimal as possible. The greater material that you use to provide protection around your feet, the rate of fighting atrophy is decreased. It is very important that you stimulate these muscles daily (within your own limitations) to rehabilitate back to the way you were meant to travel.

Example 1: Someone that travels primarily in an urban environment does not need really thick soles and all sorts of cushion.

There is a 90% chance that you will pick up bad stride habits the greater distance you put between the ground and your feet. I personally call it the Floating Effect. By not feeling the surface completely; your body will not be able to compensate when you stride incorrectly.

Example 2: Now going the opposite direction in the application. Someone that travels on a lot of clay based mud or snow is the only human that would need lugged type soles.

The more surface area that is touching the ground in your forefoot area the better

This will improve your balance and proprioception. If you have proper posture and stride; zero tread will work just fine. Since your body weight will be over your hips and you should be having a forward progress at all times with the energy your body naturally produces for traveling across Earth.

My Suggestion: Let's say you want to transition from your running shoes to minimal footwear. You would start by walking no greater than 1 mile. Keep your most commonly used shoes on you. Then after your allotted time; put your shoes back on. Then only increase your distance no greater than 10% each month, based on your own body's soreness.
Around your residence; be completely barefoot as much as possible. Like any muscle in your body, it only takes a few hours to start the effects of atrophy.

Tip: Do not listen to music while walking or running. You should use your sense of hearing to tell you when you are striding improperly. I call the Flipper Effect and it sounds like...splat,splat,splat!

Do your feet stay dry in those things and are they waterproof?

It is my personal belief you DO NOT want footwear that can keep your feet dry. In fact the exact opposite - you want your feet to be able to purge water as fast as possible. You also want to be able to have the surface of your skin dry as much as possible.

Rule: The more protection you have around your foot the harder it is to get air to your skin. Proper foot care is key to avoid hot spots, blisters, ect. it is extremely important to keep the surface of your feet dry.

My Suggestion: I personally take an air-out breaks every 2 hours minimum. The surface of your skin dries incredibly fast if given the chance. At this time I also do a few foot stretches. (I will go over those at a later time.)

Don't your feet get cold on the snow?

This is one of the most common questions I get asked on the trail. Basically, modern human is brainwashed by gear manufactures. It is a fact that the average human has grown up with something around their feet ever since birth. That being said, over the years feet have been desensitized to the outdoor environment.
Want to learn more? Check out how to keep your feet warm in the snow!
Example: Someone barefoot that grew up in Alaska would have a hell of a time walking in Arizona, because of drastic climate differences.

My Suggestion: If your feet are going to be traveling in the winter, use the same formula as above. Start at a few minutes exposed to the cold and then increase by 10% based on your comfort. I guarantee you will no longer have cold feet. (pun intended)

sandals snow
Minimalist sandals in snow

Do I need to spend $100 to train my feet?

The answer is, "absolutely not!" Training your feet as bare as possible on a controlled surface is highly suggested. It is very important to keep the path in your nervous system as open. The more material you put around your feet closes that path - increasing the chances you will pick up poor form, stride and posture.

My Suggestion: After rehabilitating your form back to a natural movement, use the internet to find all kinds of DIY footwear projects that you can make for a few dollars. Finding the products at a local thrift store makes this project better and more fun for everyone.

How much should my footwear weigh?

In the past, this has been a forgotten subject. As the world of ultralight hiking evolves, it has been a more commonly asked.

Fact: The more weight you put around your foot - the more calories you burn as you lose stride efficiency. The more food you have to carry, because you're burning more calories while traveling across a surface - increases your pack weight. The more weight you carry equals more calories you burn per mile. This puts us as a human in a NEVER ENDING downward spiral and dramatically decreasing our efficiency. (This is also true for striding outside of our hips.)

My Suggestion: Choosing the lightest and most minimal footwear is extremely important. I like to stick to the 10-10 rule of thumb; around 10 oz per pair and 10mm of thickness. Also important is the ability to purge water as fast and the ability to keep small objects out - depending on what surface you are traveling on. Keeping objects out is a personal preference, and one of the reasons I went all in on the Vibram FiveFinger Seeya. Works perfect for every surface, besides for icy snow and off trail traversing.

What about Zero Drop?

Let me put this as simple as possible - if we were meant to travel across this Earth with our heels elevated we would have huge heel bones when we were barefoot. It is IMPOSSIBLE to put the body into a natural alignment with your heels off the ground. Period.

My Suggestion: Only choose footwear that are natural heel to toe. No exceptions!

My Top 3 Footwear Choices

Article by Barefoot Jake

In Concision/Disclaimer: You should choose footwear based on YOU. You should only use this as a guide. The time that it takes to rehab the muscles in your feet varies for every human. The body's height, weight, torso and limb length all play a role as well. I will cover the importance of stretching your feet and how the footwear fits at a later time. All things in this site are only my personal opinions. I suggest things that primarily work for me and my clients on various surfaces. I am however not a doctor, so please - no lawsuits.